Pan American Highway

From WikiOverland, the encyclopedia of Overland travel
Jump to: navigation, search

Currency to display:

Overland summary[edit]

Driving The Pan American Highway from Alaska to Argentina is probably the most popular Overland route in the world, and as such, is very, very achievable for the average person. No paperwork is required in advance and many countries are relatively cheap to travel through. People from almost all countries in the world can gain entry to each country for free for 90 days.
Since late 2014 a vehicle ferry has been operating from Panama to Colombia across the Darien Gap, making it much easier to complete the drive.

Books[edit]

A guide for overlanding in Mexico and Central America. This book provides detailed information by country. It also includes 11 chapters of information for planning and preparing your trip and 9 chapters on what to expect while driving through Mexico and Central America.
Completed by the authors of Life Remotely.
 

Countries[edit]

(alphabetical)

Distance[edit]

The straight-line, minimum deviation distance from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina is 30,000kms (18,000 miles).

Time Required[edit]

Due to the extreme winters, it's advisable to avoid winter at the extreme North and South ends of the journey. That naturally means the journey is often completed in approximately one and a half years.
People that love riding their motorbike every single day will complete the trip in six months.
Obviously, you can go as fast or slow as you please and some Overlanders have taken many years to complete the trip.

Cost[edit]

This will depend on many variable factors such as the time you take for the trip and how often you camp and cook your own food. Many of the countries in Central and South America are relatively cheap, so expenses need not be high. Crossing the Darien Gap is the only expensive logistical challenge.
Some information from other Overlanders:

Logistical challenges[edit]

You do not need a Carnet de Passage for any country in North, Central or South America. Some websites say you do, that is outdated information.

There are two logistical challenges to driving the Pan American Highway:

  • Crossing the Darien Gap from Panama to Colombia now has a vehicle ferry and is covered below.
  • People driving Right Hand Drive (RHD) vehicles will have to apply for a permit to drive through El Salvador. Alternatively, they can choose to bypass El Salvador entirely. See the El Salvador page for more details. Also it's technically illegal to enter Nicaragua with a RHD vehicle, though it seems many overlanders have paid a small bribe to get around this. As recently as 2014 some overlanders have been denied entry to Chile with RHD vehicles, specifically at southern land border crossings and when shipping into Chile.

Border crossings[edit]

Arrive at borders early in the morning to avoid long line-ups.
Most borders are closed overnight, and it's not advisable to wait at the border when darkness falls due to safety concerns.

Safety in No Man's Land[edit]

Often when crossing borders you will be officially stamped out of one country, pass through a populated area that seemingly has no jurisdiction, then enter the second country. These "No Man's land" areas are not a good place to spend time, it's advised you move through them directly to the next official station.

Helpers[edit]

You are certain to encounter locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across borders in Central America. They will usually have Identification (home made) and can be quite pushy, demanding and rude. Depending on the border and time of day, you may be surrounded by ten or more people yelling and trying to take your paperwork. These "helpers" will insist the process is so difficult you can not cross the border without their help, which is completely untrue.
Their help is really not needed, and so do not give them your documents. They will ask for outrageous amounts of money to give it back, after helping you very little. Often they will pretend to be officials to get you to hand over your documents. Only give your documents and seek advice from people inside official offices, or a uniformed Police officer with a badge.

General Tips[edit]

Fire stations[edit]

Fire stations around the world are known to help out cyclists, motorbikers and sometimes 4 wheel based Overlanders. It never hurts to ask if you can park or camp in a fire station throughout Latin America, almost always they will be receptive and you'll have secure parking and make some great friends. It doesn't hurt to buy them coffee or a beer, or to donate to a local charity to say thanks.

Crossing The Darien Gap[edit]

The Darien Gap is a 160km strip of swampland that separates Panama from Colombia. You can read all about it at the wikipedia page Darién Gap. Only a handful of extremely well outfitted 4x4 expeditions have managed to drive through the gap. It's extreme 4x4ing and not without serious risks.
99.9999% of all people crossing the Daren Gap ship their vehicle in one way or another.

The Ferry Express vehicle ferry is not running until November 2015.

Ferry Xpress vehicle ferry[edit]

For detailed instructions and price for crossing the Darien Gap from Panama to Colombia using the Ferry Xpress vehicle ferry, see the Panama to colombia car ferry xpress page.

The Ferry Express vehicle ferry is not running until November 2015.

Traditional shipping[edit]

For Motorbikes[edit]

People on motorbikes can take advantage of the numerous small yachts making the crossing. Motorbikes are man-handled on and off at each end and ride on the deck of the boats covered in tarps. Almost all boats allow the rider to come along for the amazing trip through the San Blas Islands and some even take care of the customs paperwork at each end.
Costs are around $700.00 USD for bike and rider in 2010.

Panamore.org also organizes this transportation, working with reliable captains and arranging the trip beforehand (usually two or three days through their website) so to avoid waiting for days till the boat is full. They haves good prices around 550 Dollars.

Hostal Wunderbar have a lot of experience organizing this trip for riders and come very highly recommended.
Shipping a Motorcycle by Air from Panama to Colombia is an excellent writeup from 2013. Total cost for bike and rider was $1,322.00 USD

Shipping a vehicle[edit]

By far and away the most popular option to cross the gap is to load your vehicle into a shipping container and use ocean freight to move it from Colón in Panama to Cartegena in Colombia, or the opposite direction. Note that people will have to make the crossing separately (usually flying or sailing).
Start by reading the Vehicle Shipping page to learn everything you need to know.

NOTE: Because this is such a popular crossing with Overlanders it's very likely you'll meet someone else heading in the same direction to share a large 40 foot container with. Not only will this work out cheaper, you'll have another Overland team to help work through the paperwork.

Price[edit]


Common shipping agents[edit]

A Few shipping agents have become popular over the years for Overlanders.

  • Seabord Marine Panama[2]

Deal with tourists on a very regular basis and usually quote an "everything, no hassle" quote of around $1,000.00 USD to $1,200.00 USD per vehicle.
Ave. Miguel Brostella
Edif. PH Camino de Cruces, Local M2, Mezzanine
Tel.: (507) 360-5900 Fax: (507) 360-5940
Apdo. 0816 - 00665 Panamá 5, R. de P.
Tel= (507) 273-7488, (507) 273-8368, Fax: (507) 273-0727
Contact = Javier Sucre (Spanish & English), Vanessa Degracia
Tel = (507) 360-5914 / Fax = (507) 360-5910
GPS = 9.006061° -79.538382°
Web = Seaboard Marine
Email = jsucre@seaboardmarinepanama.com
seacargo@seaboardmarinepanama.com

  • Barwil Agencia S.A.[3]

Barwil are also extremely used to dealing with Overlanders and also offer a "no hassle" quote of around $1,000.00 USD to $1,200.00 USD per vehicle.
Panama Pacifico (former Howard Airforce Base), south of the city
International Business Park,
Tower A, 3rd floor, Office 401
N08º 55.67’ W79º 35.57’
evelyn.batista@wilhelmsen.com
Phone: +507 263 7755; Fax: +507 223 0698
Panama, Republic of Panama
evelyn.batista@wilhelmsen.com
Web: Wilhelmsen Ships Service


  • Ever Logistics, Inc.

This guys help us with the paperwork at DIJ,Custom and Port plus the attention was amazing, i see that crossing car from Panama to Colombia was tedious, but was very easy. Plus if you dont have a partner for share a container they get you one.:o!!!! ask for Boris. Regards, Nathan
Boris G. Jaramillo
e-mail: sales3@everlogistics.net
e-mail: boris_jaramillo@hotmail.com
Phone: (507) 431-0390 / 431-0391 / 431-0392 / 431-0393 / 431-0394
Fax : (507) 431-0395
Cel.: (507) 6213-3485
Visit our Blog: Car Crossing Panama
Webpage: Ever Logistics, Inc.

Process[edit]

Many Overlanders have completed the task of shipping across The Darien Gap. Rather than duplicate the information here, the goal is to link to the most up to date sources possible. Please add links if you know a site that details the process.

For Motorbikes

Finishing the trip[edit]

At the end of the trip, some people choose to sell their vehicle and fly home, while others choose to ship their vehicle home.

Sell[edit]

Selling cars registered outside South American countries is tricky at best, and often illegal. See the details in the Chile and Argentina pages for more details.

Ship vehicle home[edit]

  • In early 2014 Lost World Expedition shared a 40 ft. shipping container from Buenos Aires to Miami, Florida for a total price (inc. all fees on both ends) of $2,000.00 USD per vehicle.

References[edit]

  1. The Price Of Adventure | The Road Chose Me
  2. Panamericana
  3. Vehicle Shipping across the Darien Gap

External Links[edit]

Overlanding Mexico and Central America Contains advice for planning and preparing for an overlanding trip based on the hundreds of hours of research LifeRemotely did before leaving home in October 2011.
Information for Americana Tour Site with information and links about driving the Pan American Highway (available in English and German)
Ruined Adventures: Fellow Travelers A list of Overlanders traveling the Pan American highway as of 2012. Also lists recently completed expeditions.

Seventeen By Six - travelling from Mexico to Argentina. Oct 2011 - present. Includes camping maps.